Your Time is a Scarce Resource and Your Trust is a Currency10 Feb 2012
...and I'm not going to waste either of them.
One of the biggest reasons I have moved almost entirely to Google+ is that I can actually selectively target my posts at specific groups of people. The model of public/private posts works great if everything you post is applicable to every person who follows you, but I think that model is going to change over the next few years. I have a broad cross-section of interests, and very few of my friends and professional contacts fall into most of them, let alone all. That means that every time I post, I'm wasting someone's time. You might not care about my musings on the direction of a particular technology or industry. You might not care about the latest leatherworking technique I've learned. You might be utterly disinterested in adorable cat videos. I feel as someone who's publishing this material, I should do my best to target my audience - to deliver relevant, timely content to you. Google+ gets me so close to that.
A while back I read (and disagreed with) the assertion that Google+ Circles are backwards. It didn't really hit me at the time, but I think this makes a lot of sense upon further reflection. Sure, I could use Circles to limit what users see certain things, but that kind of granular privacy is only one-way. Why not make it better? Let me put out the things I want, but you only see the things you want. I should be able to set up Joinable Circles, where any user I've followed can be added to those circles - basically a subset of my public or semi-public feeds. In every other way, treat them like circles, but if I've added you, you should get to filter my posts.
Here's what might my "Joinable Circles" look like:
[Tech News] [Telecom] [Media Policy] [Burners] [SCA] [Hackers]And you, as someone I've followed, should be allowed to pick which ones you go in. Why not, right? By the way, let me know if you want to be added to any of these groups, but think you're not already there.
Trust is different. I have watched over the last few years as people have used Google's "Don't be evil" motto as a blunt object to swing around whenever the company doesn't behave as they believe they should. Facebook has effectively lost me (and many others) over their constantly shifting stance on privacy, user's rights, and a questionable business model. Path recently felt the wrath of the internet when it was discovered that the iPhone version secretly uploaded your entire address book to their servers. In all cases - trust of the users drives fundamental adoption, evangelism, and retention. Every time a company chooses to put the business over user trust, they suffer. It will ultimately bring down Facebook (sorry IPO hopefuls). How much user trust are you willing to give up to go beyond a few dollars per user per year? Will you sell ever more access to my likes and interests? How creepy can you get with mining user data without crossing a line like Path (who's only real crimes were the lack of disclosure and opt-out)? Especially in the case of services like Google+ and Facebook, these companies are asking us to trust them with everything, that they'll only show the right stuff to the right people, won't betray us to advertisers and oppressive governments, and really - can be in our inner circle.
At this point I'm relegated to a dumb consumer on Facebook - I no longer produce any unique or distinct content, most of my status updates are duplicated from Twitter (which for the reasons mentioned in the previous section, I've been using less) or occasionally cross-posted. Despite my more than 120 friends on Google+, I'm only really interacting with a few dozen. And while the "intimacy" is nice, and I love only having 11 people in my High School circle instead of 150, I feel the adoption isn't where it needs to be to totally replace FB/Twitter. For now, I'm a man without a social network.
So here's my promise to you, kicking off my 28th year on this planet (yeah, it's my birthday):
I will do my best not to waste your time and to earn your trust.